Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Empowering Youth to Take Charge of Their Health

Guest article written by Peter Berg
Young people are in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis. For the first time young people have ailments that used to be limited to adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control (2013), childhood obesity has doubled in young children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Type 2 diabetes, a disease normally seen in adults over 40, is on the rise in children and adolescents (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). The number of cases of nonalcoholic fatter liver disease in young people over the age of 10 is on the rise (Vajro et al., 2012).
These are not the only health issues today’s young people are faced with. As the info-graphic below shows, mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar and mood disorders are prevalent in adolescents and young adults. The World Health Organization (2012) estimates that 20 percent of adolescents worldwide experience a mental health problem every year.


  
Source: Alyssa Celebre via Nomad Creatives
Add in the approximately 3.5 million young people that are taking medications for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the fact that some estimates suggest that half of young people, ages 6 to 21, in the United States have some form of learning disability, it’s no wonder that many young people today feel confused, out of touch with themselves and powerless to do anything to change their situation. 
Here’s the good news! These statistics can be changed and young people can take charge of their health. This is the focus of my work at youthtransformation.com.I have witnessed these statistics firsthand and believe that young people need to know that they have a say in how their life unfolds.
Young people are often confused by the mixed messages they receive about health from the media, family, friends and society at large.  On one hand, they are shown unrealistic images of lean-muscled female and male bodies that are airbrushed and/or touched up to hide imperfections as the ultimate in health; these images are confusing, unrealistic and represent a limited view of health.
While the people in these images may indeed be healthy, we have no real way of knowing that. On the other hand, young people are told to be healthy and that being healthy is important, yet they are surrounded by a sea of junk, imitations and distorted views of life that are available 24 hours a day.
They are bombarded with advertising images specifically developed for their age group with their developmental needs, wants and desires factored in.
So what can we do? In my work, I empower young people to take charge of their health and be the masters of their lives.  One of the main ways to do this is to help young people know themselves. Giving young people time to reflect, think and be still is key in helping them getting to know themselves, what they need, and ultimately, what works for them. 
As young people get to know themselves, they begin to understand the needs they share with others and the needs that are unique to them.  In turn, this also increases their ability to empathize with others.  Knowing their unique needs is an important step in young people’s ability to make decisions that are best for them.
Support from adults is key in empowering young people to take charge of their health and be the masters of their lives.  This is especially important when making lifestyle changes. In essence, all of the work is about making changes that become a way of life, not an add-on or a chore.
Another key area I focus on is healthy eating. This doesn't mean going on a ‘diet.’  It’s about finding ways to eat foods that are delicious, nutritious and work best for each individual young person.  Sometimes this is about a shift towards eating more whole foods; other times it is about transitioning from patterns of behavior that result in unhealthy eating habits. Most of the time it’s about the young person being empowered to make the best food choices for them based on self-knowledge, exploration and careful consideration.


Bio
Peter Berg, A.B.D, M.S., C.H.H.C.
The founder of Youth Transformations and Educational Transfomation.org, is a board certified holistic health and mental health coach, a teacher, educational administrator, community organizer, educational consultant, school developer, national trainer and an expert in and an advocate for alternative and integrated education. He has written extensively on alternative, holistic, integrated educational theory and techniques and has founded and co-founded non-profit community and environmental-based organizations.
Peter received his Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Education from Antioch University and is currently finishing his Doctoral research at Walden University, which explores the ties between school leadership and progressive and holistic education.
Peter maintains partnerships and affiliations with organizations that promote sustainability, social and environmental justice, human rights and holistic health.  Often this work entails bringing these organizations together to form partnerships and exchange ideas. Peter has consulted on various start-up schools throughout the country and continues to offer consultations to national and international organizations, schools and individuals.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Technology and Prioritizing Relationships


In reading my last two posts, you know I believe that building relationships with your students is paramount for a teacher to maximize the learning of his/her students. I am delighted to have LindseyWright lindswright@gmail.com with a guest post on technology and relationships.


The current climate seems to both embrace technology as an essential element of society and revile it as the death knell of human bonding and relationships. It's sparked debates about how many hours children should spend online, whetheror not social media are actually connecting us to others or isolating us further, and how extensive a role technology should play in education.

While the first two points are perhaps best addressed by parents, the last has become as much the domain of teachers, administrators, and the government. Arguments run the gamut from encouraging high school graduates to take to espousing avoidance of technology in the classroom in favor of traditional learning techniques. However, both of these arguments(admittedly extremes) fail to take into account the role that technology is intended to play in learning relationships. Rather than usurping therelationship between student and teacher, technology should be a tool toenhance that learning connection and develop stronger classroom bonds. Inshort, it is meant to foster a love of learning in students that will continueinto adulthood.

Active vs. Passive Learning

To see the role technology should play in the relationship between student andteacher, it's first essential to understand the difference between passive and active learning. As noted by
Norman Herr, Professor of Science Education at California State University,both types of learning are essential to the classroom, but the depth oflearning varies between them.

A passive learning experience is typically characterized by lectures and note-taking. Rather than exploring new points of inquiry, the passive learner is viewed as an empty vessel to be filled with information presumably to be reproduced on a test. In contrast, the active learning experience is one in which student and teacher engage in a relationship based upon mutual inquiry and discussion. Rather than simply learning information by rote, the active learneris able to restructure that information to create new meaning and understanddeeper relationships between different elements.

Instead of lectures, teachers use brief instructional periods to provide basic information that forms the basis for ongoing active inquiry on the part of the student or class. By the end of a course, active learners should be well-versed in the subject matter, able to understand deeper meanings based upon that information, and build upon the material in future study.

The primary difference between passive and active learning, Herr notes, lies in the relationship dynamic between student, teacher, and material. In passive learning, the relationship between these disparate parts is minimal at best. However, in an active learning experience students and teachers meet over the material. In other words, students and teachers engage in a discussion about the subject matter that builds a relationship based on academic inquiry andmutual respect. Students develop confidence in their abilities to understandand work with the material, and teachers gain new insights into the different learning styles of students, as well as gain from their new perspectives on the material itself. A genuine learning relationship is fostered that will serve students throughout their educational careers.

Technology and the Active Learner
Numerous studies by the US Department of Education on the role technology plays in the classroom have shown repeatedly that the proper use of technology in education fosters active learning. This doesn't mean technology should always be used arbitrarily, but that effective use of educational technology facilitates learning and the relationship that's meant to develop between student, teacher, and material.

The studies suggest technology should be used in an educational context tofoster understanding of topics, promote independent inquiry, and develop peer collaboration. In short, technology should be used in a meaningful way. To suggest one example, students could perform an Internet scavenger hunt (that is, do research) for information about the subject under study. Students could then collaborate in groups to create presentations about particular aspects of the topic, with each presentation to be followed by class discussion of that specific element.

In such an activity, the teacher would monitor the use of technology, discuss findings with students, and provide research guidance as needed. Rather than passively enduring a lecture, students would be engaged in acquiring information themselves and developing a stronger relationship with both the teacher and peers based upon sharing what they've learned. This is active learning in action, facilitated by simple and suitable use of technology.

Many fear technology is creating automatons incapable of interacting withothers, but study after study demonstrates technology actually enhances education and the relationships that exist between students, their peers, and teachers. Rather than harming the educational system and the learning relationships upon which it depends, technology when properly used can enhance these relationships and create engaged learners eager to teach each other and interact with teachers as they discover their own ability to learn for themselves.

Photo: eyebeam's photostream

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Guest Post: Sarah Wenger

It’s time for the old adage that women neither like nor do well in math and science be put to rest …
Women are increasingly involved in the tech field, both as consumers and as practitioners, which shouldn't come as a surprise since over half of social media users are women and the average social gamer is a woman in her 40s.
This trend is also reflected in education. Of the computer science majors graduating in 2013 from Harvard, women make up 41%. And although only 25% of science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are currently held by women, the numbers are beginning to shift. Between January of 2011 and 2012, the number of women in the IT field jumped by more than 28%.
The benefits for women who enter tech are hard to deny. They experience smaller wage gaps due to gender than women in other industries. But the relationship between women and tech companies isn’t one-sided – the companies get some nice perks, too. Companies whose boards of directors contain 3 or more female members had higher returns on sales, returns on investments and returns on equity.
The infographic below delves deeper into how the phenomenon of women in tech is on the rise.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Power to the Online People

I am sharing a new infographic from Sarah Wenger developed for Open Site. You can contact Sarah at sarahwenger@gmail.com .
 Where were you when news of the tsunami hit Japan in 2011? How about when Michael Jackson died? Probably online, according to many experts who claim that social media has become the main media source for hundreds of millions of people. Not just in the U.S., either; Facebook alone has more than 900 million users spread across the globe as of 2012. Other social media giants like Twitter have facilitated revolution against unjust leaders and warned people of impending natural disaster. In fact, so many people regularly interact online that if the Internet were a nation, it would exceed the Americas, Europe and the Middle East combined in population. No wonder more than 13 million members of the online community used Reddit and other media platforms to protest SOPA, a proposed Internet censorship bill. Keep this graphic in mind next time you log on, because knowledge is power — and a little knowledge goes a long way in the Internet Age.

  Power To The Online People
Do you agree with Sarah about the power of internet? Do you have an example to share about the power of the internet?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Education and the Economy


Acknowledging the Link between Education and the Economy
With the rise of the economic crisis and growing public concern regarding the U.S. health care system, the issue of education has often taken a back seat in American politics. However, recent events have shown that this important issue is slowly making its way to the foreground once again, with both presidential candidates publicly addressing the issue. This new focus on education indicates that the candidates are attempting to address voter concerns on this issue, which polls have shown to be somewhat significant when compared with other issues.
Analyzing the Numbers
The New York Times teamed up with CBS in April of this year to poll the American people about what political issues they were most concerned about with the presidential election right around the corner. The results revealed that education was cited as the biggest problem facing the country, right behind the economy, health care, and the national debt. A poll in February of this year was consistent with these results--revealing that the public most wanted to hear presidential candidates address issues surrounding education, but still behind the three priority issues of the economy, health care, and the national deficit.
Although it's clear that the public highly values the importance of education, only 4 percent of respondents identified education as an issue of primary concern, while almost 50 percent named the economy as the single biggest problem in the country today. It's true that each of these issues plays a key role in the function of the country as a whole; however, perhaps more of an emphasis would be placed on education if it were widely understood how interrelated this issue is with the state of the economy.
Despite the minimal public focus on the importance of education, the growing emphasis on an online learning environment has made education more accessible for a larger portion of the population. As a result, a larger portion of the population can take advantage of higher education by earning a degree through Internet-based institutions.
Education as the Foundation of a Functional Economy
Education and the economy are often divided in politics as two distinct issues, when in reality the former often predicts the behavior of the latter. In fact, school choice advocate Michelle Rhee has explicitly pointed out how the two affect one another. In an article by Ginger Gibson of Politico, she emphasizes the relationship between the two by stating "I think [the candidates] need to really start to make the connection for the American public between what happens in the public education system and the long-term viability of this country."
George P. Schultz and Eric A. Hanushek of the Wall Street Journal seconded this notion in a recent article regarding the importance of education reform on both a K-12 and college level. The journalists argued "An improved education system would lead to a dramatically different future for the U.S., because educational outcomes strongly affect economic growth and the distribution of income." This statement falls in line with recent studies, which have shown that countries with higher math and science skills tend to experience greater economic growth than those with less skilled populations.
Just how dramatic of an effect would educational improvements have on the U.S. economy? According to the same article, the GDP would quickly skyrocket over the next 80 years, which would deliver an annual income boost of 20 percent for each worker in the U.S. over his or her career. As a result of this increase, the U.S. deficit could effortlessly be eliminated. With a greater focus on education reform, the presidential candidates can essentially kill two birds with one stone.
About the author: Matt Herndon lives in Indianapolis with his wife and children. He has completed his graduate work in Upper East Tennessee where he studied communication and leadership development.